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Customer Satisfaction Process

Customer Satisfaction Process
Competitive Advantage Through Customer Feedback
James Mirasol, August 15, 2010

A colleague and friend consulted me about developing a Customer Satisfaction Process.  After a 3-hour breakfast, I realized that I had not developed any tangible material on the subject, so here it is.

Mission cannot be about profits.  There has to be a higher calling in order to energize the fullest of human commitment in the Team.  This has been extensively developed in a number of works ranging from Covey, Buckingham, Gladwell and a host of others.

Marcus Buckingham advised individuals to leverage what they can personally be best in the world at and the same is true for organizations.  This crystallizes the true Value Proposition of your organization and will guide the organization through its journey of getting ever better at meeting customer needs. The organizational journey is about relentlessly pursuing that value proposition, that promise to your customer that made them sign on in the first place.

The mission then, boils down to delighting the customer, which is measured in Customer Satisfaction.  Capturing that feedback, accurately and timely—and then leveraging the results into an effective, continuous campaign that creates competitive advantage is the real mission. 

Profitability is easy after that. 

Fred Riechheld in his book The Ultimate Question went into great lengths explaining why your customer feedback campaign needs to achieve at least a 60% response rate in order to be statistically valid.  More detailed information is available in the book but one key point to make here is that you are never going to achieve a 60% response rate if your survey takes 10 minutes to complete.  It is on this note where Riechheld makes his core point that The Ultimate Question, “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague”?  No matter what other parameters you might want to measure, it all boils down to whether your overall experience is recommendable or not.  It’s a long-winded way of saying viral marketing.   Coupled with the Net Promoter Score framework, this approach has all it takes to generate actionable feedback.

Providing choices, as with a pulldown, radio button or checkbox, makes it easier for the customer to give feedback and increases your response rates.  Just make sure that you retain “Other” as a choice alongside a free-text box so that customers can provide details.  No matter how mature your feedback system, customer needs and wants are constantly evolving and you want to provide every opportunity to track those changes. 

Offering standardized responses also greatly improves response aggregation and report generation. 

Standardizing responses greatly increases the reliability of your satisfaction data by eliminating the filter of interpreting exclusively free-text feedback.  Even when there is a single dedicated owner of customer feedback, if that feedback comes exclusively in all free-text format, the results will ultimately be suspect, owing to the need to the of that “single dedicated owner” to appreciate the feedback, in context, and then categorize.  Categorizing is best left up to the customer, who will retain the ability to inform you that none of your categories matches their intended feedback by way of using the “Other” option. 

To highest degree possible, try to automate the feedback process.

Stephen Covey’s 4 Disciplines of Execution advocated us to “create a compelling scoreboard”, which means it needs to concisely present the target result, historical performance and current performance.  It should pass the 3-second rule, meaning that the overall picture is understood by anyone on the team in 3 seconds.  Avoid overly complicating the score. 

As Covey rightly pointed out, an organization needs to create an overall organizational scoreboard upon which business units or teams should base their own scoreboards to so they can track their respective and collective contributions to the overall mission and generate plans accordingly. 

Working without a scoreboard to monitor current and projected results at the end of a work cycle is like playing basketball and then checking the score only when the game is done.  You need to monitor the results in as close to real-time as you can get.  Again, automation is a great enabler.

Ram Charan in Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done noted that the current competitive environment has a very short timeline for delivering results.  Charan further noted that “if a competitor is out-executing you, they are beating you in the here and now”.  Quarterly performance reviews are simply unacceptable these days.  You need to track your organization’s performance at the very least on a weekly basis and, depending on the business you’re in, this might even need to track hourly or even in real-time.  Whichever cycle fits your business model, do not forget to project current results out to the nearest checkpoint.  An example of this would be to project week 1 performance out to a full month.  Then compare this with the results that you need to deliver and determine the appropriate courses of action whether it is radical correction, more of the same or something in between.

In every cycle a number of customer satisfaction challenges will be identified but since only so many activities can be pursued at any given time, prioritization is required.  Prioritization can be based on a number of criteria such as frequency or sheer volume of incidents, impact on revenues, cost, attrition and so on.  How you prioritize is completely dependent on your business model.   

Implementing a truly customer-centric operation is essentially an Organizational Development endeavor.  It is not to be taken lightly, nor should it be pursued as a project of the month.  Organizations looking to drive better results through customer feedback need to ensure that they will commit the entire organization behind the effort to the point that the campaign becomes the overriding mission.  

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James Mirasol has been working in outsourcing business process development since 2004.  His experience includes contact centers, technical help desk, knowledge worker, data-encryption and medical transcription, online hotel sales and marketing and online sales development for a variety of businesses.